Supergiant’s third instalment, Pyre, has a tough act to follow. The independent game studio has already released two critically acclaimed titles, Transistor and Bastion. Before Pyre hit the shelves, there was one question that I continued to ask myself. Would Pyre stand up strong alongside its predecessors?
Nevertheless, I trusted Supergiant to deliver a great game with a strong art direction and wonderful music to boot. They didn’t disappoint. Pyre is a confronting game, though not due to controversial issues. It’s confronting as most – if not all – of the decisions you make come with great irreversible consequences that you are forced to face head-on.
The main plot is nothing new at all. You join a group of exiled travellers in their quest to regain their freedom. The game gives you no room to explore the world you are in, which is a shame as it is quite beautiful. Along the way, you pick up new travellers who join your group. Some may share your goal to achieve freedom, some have other motives, and some may simply be in it for the ride.
The story is told primarily through text, like a visual novel. All exchanges between characters are shown through a dialog box at the bottom, and your interactions with them are based on multiple-choice. The story has many different endings, completely reliant on the choices that you make throughout the entire game.
In order for your group to leave exile, your group must participate in Rites, a three-on-three minigame similar to basketball or rugby. You control all three characters, but you can only do so one at a time. Your trio must take the celestial orb (the ‘ball’) and take it to the enemy’s pyre (the ‘goal’ or the ‘hoop’) and extinguish it. The minigame is simple, though there is some strategy involved. Each character has unique abilities, and you must use them to their greatest potential in order to win.
What makes this game stand out above others is how it handles defeat. In most games, losing means a defeat screen and being sent back to a checkpoint. That is not the case for Pyre. Your journey continues, win or lose. You have no option to retry.
Such a simple addition (or omission, depending on how you look at it) causes so much second guessing, even during the Rites. The group relies on your decisions and your abilities, and it is your missteps and failures that your group must come to terms with should they occur.
I started this game with a competitive mindset, hellbent to win every Rite. But as the game goes on, I began to question the choices I’m making and the choices I’ve already made. It would be common sit idly, considering all the options you can think of, and then wondering which one is the right choice to make. Wondering if winning is all there is to it. Wondering if losing is the better outcome.
Supergiant has planted their stake in the video game industry as wonderful storytellers through their vibrant world and entrancing music. Pyre is a game suited to those who enjoy a narrative-driven game, with little need for combat. The game is available on PC, Mac, and Playstation 4 for $26 AUD.